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25 years on, health and housing rights still not enshrined in law

On 31 March of this year the Constitutional Convention recommended to the Government, by an overwhelming majority of 85%, that economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights, such as healthcare, housing and social security, be given enhanced protection in the Irish Constitution. 

Under the terms of the Convention, the Government committed to respond to its recommendations within four months. Disappointingly they have yet to do so on this issue.

Ireland ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in 1989. This treaty was devised, negotiated and agreed to by states, including Ireland. Yet almost 25 years later, these rights remain largely unprotected in Ireland. This is despite a growing international trend to make these rights legally enforceable.

136 constitutions around the world protect the right to work and 135 provide for the right to healthcare. Constitutional protection of these rights and their oversight by courts in other states shows that governments can operate within an enforceable ESC rights framework.

The Constitutional Convention’s recommendation presents the Government with a unique opportunity to finally take a significant step towards fulfilling its economic, social and cultural rights obligations.

We, the ESC Rights Initiative, are calling on the Government to accept the Constitutional Convention’s recommendation.

If further examination of this issue is deemed necessary, we urge that such a process be put in place quickly. Any such process should be open and transparent, draw on internal analysis and external expertise, have clear and public terms of reference, have an efficient and defined timeframe for reporting, and be mandated to make its findings and reasoning public.

The Government’s focus in recent times has been on managing the fallout from the economic crisis. It is now time to re-evaluate its priorities and fulfil its responsibilities regarding ESC rights.

We call on the Government to honour its commitments and enshrine these fundamental human rights in Bunreacht na hÉireann.

Aiden Lloyd Chairperson 

ESC Rights Initiative.

Member organisations: Amnesty International, Ireland FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centre), Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Focus Ireland, TASC (Think Tank for Action on Social Change), Children’s Rights Alliance, Peter McVerry Trust, Immigrant Council of Ireland, Equality and Rights Alliance, Mercy Law Resource Centre, Age Action, Pavee Point, Disability Federation of Ireland, Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed, Community Law and Mediation, Marriage Equalit,y All Together in Dignity Ireland, South Dublin Community Platform


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